Amazing Continuous Improvement from Debriefing

One of my new customers is Novartis, who used my Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise with their scientists to look at issues of improving teamwork and collaboration and innovation successes. Two trainers and I talked on the phone for over an hour, debriefing some of the things they saw and framing up future deliveries around different desired outcomes. There are lots of possibilities around how to build the game into their existing team building courses as well as to look for ways to impact more of the interdepartmental issues.

Frankly, I absolutely love those kinds of conversations, since they often generate things that I might clarify better in the game’s instructional overview materials as well as new ways to frame ideas.

I wrote about how clients innovated the game in other blogs. INPO reframed the Best Practice metaphor of the TurboCharger to better emphasize the strategic planning theme for their desired outcomes, for example. And they also turned me on to the basic benefit of having a designated Devil’s Advocate to help an organization see other sides of the issues to improve implementation.

We’ve been playing with the design of Dutchman for over 20 years now and the metaphors in the design are pretty well-polished. One of the metaphors ties into planning and resource management issue. (You can find a detailed blog about issues of planning and optimizing here.)

As part of their resources, we make a Spare Tire available, with the storyline that it helps protect their vehicles against “Ice Shards,” sharp spikes of ice that can damage their tires. They are also told that, “Ice Shards are very rare.”

The reality is that Ice Shards never occur, and that the cost of that Spare Tire is the same as the cost of resources to manage one day in the Mine. Having a Spare Tire then actually costs them a full day of mining gold, since their resources are, in fact, “sufficient but limited.”

We also play with a FAKE Arctic Blast on Day 17. Teams can discover that there will be TWO Arctic Blasts that occur in the middle of the game. These cost the teams extra resources, which is no big deal if you plan for these to occur. With me tossing in that FAKE extra one on Day 17, nearly every team would run out of resources and die. They simply do not have sufficient cards to get back.

The idea I got from Jessica and Natasha was that I could add Ice Shards to that fake Arctic Blast, at least temporarily making a team feel that having that Spare Tire was a benefit. That feeling would be short-lived, though, as the Just Kidding words scrolled onto that slide, but it would also add a tidbit more to the potential discussions around strategic planning and resource management and similar.

The insight is that ideas for improvement are ongoing. One might think that, after 20+ years of designing and refining something that you would have taken care of all the different possibilities. But no, there are always new ideas and new ways of doing things. And work in the real world has even more of these, if we simply open our eyes and listen with both ears.

So, I share this idea for our existing LDGM customers who can email me and ask for this updated slide (or create your own in the powerpoints). And, I share this thought for those of you who are looking for a Most Excellent experiential team building exercise, one that focuses on collaboration between teams and that works with any size group.

(In this blog post, I get into a number of nuanced delivery ideas.)

You can see a bunch of our user testimonials in this slideshare program

LDGM Testimonial bubble Advantage Bank 100

Let us know if we can help your organization in any way. Our tools are simple to use and highly effective and you will find our pricing to be really reasonable.

Rent The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Teams, Teaming and Teamworking

There have been a number of articles around the idea that teamwork does not work to improve organizational performance. Teambuilding is seen as a complicated and expensive endeavor that does not pay off.

And I can see why people might say that, given some of the team bonding kinds of activities that many people label “teambuilding.” Just because people are active in some activity does not mean that their actions will actually improve organizational performance or increase collaboration. Team BONDING is not team BUILDING, not by a long shot.

If you follow #baaadteambuilding through google or twitter searching, you can see some of the things that a few of us working with team building tools have found SO bad as to deserve special tracking in twitter.

  • A “Bubble Bounce” in which everyone bundles up in bubble wrap to bounce off the floor and walls?
  • A PediCab tour of a city (good if everyone is physically fit and not handicapped, maybe, but what about the disabled)?
  • Pub Crawling (as if the people might not embarrass themselves or do something really stupid on what is legally company time), or (seriously)
  • Pin the Tail on the Donkey?

Team building should have impacts on actual workplace behavior, framing up innovation or change or collaboration. It should be focused on observable improvements, generating the commitment to change, and maybe even have some measurable impacts on results. It should not be viewed as “fun and games” or as social networking. Those might be nice to do, but hard to use for measuring a return on investment.

Hey! I will admit a vested interest in the issue, since I design and sell interactive exercises focused on issues of engagement and collaboration between teams. But there IS a lot of crap “training” out there calling itself teamwork — my particular pet peeves are things like Firewalking, Paintball and High Ropes courses. There are lots of similar “training events” that have few links to issues of people working together, interacting to define things to improve, collaborating to fix problems, etc.

Golf as team building? Sorry. Sure, golfers are known as great teammates and team play in golf all about working together for shared results. (Not!). Maybe when the players are boozing it up at the 19th hole or doing that pub-crawl thing, but not during play of the game, most certainly. Heck, you are not even supposed to talk much of the time!

Bowling? Maybe.
Cooking? Maybe.
Darts? (NO!)
Cat Bathing? (just kidding on that one…)

And, just now in twitter, I see where a company is offering up, “Ireland’s largest inflatable obstacle course, The Big Daddy.” Seriously, we are supposed to believe that bouncing through some inflatable challenge course is going to make us work together #morebetterfaster ? Sure, that might be fun, but I am guessing they don’t want obese people, pregnant women, wheelchairs, or people who carry knives and swords. But, like go-kart racing, it is framed as teambuilding.

Too many people ride as cowboys in their organizations. There are too many workplaces that reward individual performance and then expect people to work together and collaborate. In so many organizations, with lots of research supporting this, many of the people are not engaged. One should not expect much in the way of collaboration from those people who really do not care about their workplace or about shared results.

But we can motivate people in our organizations and workgroups. People want to work together if the situation can support it, and they want to feel successful and not be scared by the risks of performing.

Motivate people through success

In high performing workplaces, you will also see a collaborative culture where people work together to handle issues and solve problems. Granted, that approach may not work too well in places like Real Estate, Mortgage Lending or Stock Market sales, but we do see a strong need for collaboration and commitment where things like production or product design or customer service come into play.

Take any group of people, give them some common goals, measure them on shared performance, and allow them the ability to help each other and you have the basics for a workplace situation where teamwork will arise. Then, do some activity that demonstrates the benefit of collaboration on the overall results — something like, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.”

Then, debrief that activity and discuss the choices that people made along with the choices they COULD have made, link it to the issues they see in their own workplace, and allow them to make commitments to each other (peer support) and you are highly likely to see improvement (if there is a bit of followup after the session).

Think of all the activities that we engage in where real teamwork is absolutely essential to accomplishment.

And esprit de corps is most certainly higher in those places where people are involved and engaged and working together toward common goals.

Celebration plane color green

Teamwork not work? I don’t think so. Teamwork is ALL about group performance. And improvement is a continuous activity requiring visible support from the management team.

Sure, individuals can excel, but only through collaboration and engagement and motivation can we get a group of people to high levels of accomplishment and performance that they can celebrate and then continue to impact.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

More Better Faster – Thoughts on collecting ideas for improvement with #morebetterfaster

There are a LOT of really good ideas out there focused on personal and organizational performance improvement. Some are thoughts about coaching other people or ideas around the concept of flow. There are many different collections of ideas about what best performers do differently such as these ideas from Dan Rockwell along with many other good thinkers.

There are instructional videos on a wide variety of personal improvement approaches and so many other resources. There are great videos on motivating people and generating teamwork and performance improvement like the TedX ones as well as YouTube.

So, I thought that I would start a hashtag collection using

#morebetterfaster

and twitter to see if we might generate a useful collection of ideas, articles, themes, tools, etc. Want to contribute?

square wheels lego image by scott simmerman

Feel free to pop in some twitter ideas with the hashtag, #morebetterfaster, and let’s see if we can make something useful.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

How Square Wheels stop The North Korea Leadership Style in any company

The North Korea Leadership Style? You know, The Dictatorship. The cultures where The BOSS * tells people what to do because they know best, expecting people to simply follow along wholeheartedly.

It’s that style that Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup was probably thinking of when he said that his data supported getting rid of “The Managers from Hell” and generating more of the behaviors we see with the top performing ones. (My article here and here and Clifton’s article here)

There is simply a lot of data out there, from a bazillion different sources, showing that supervisors and managers can simply do a better job of facilitation discussions about the workplace and working with their people to define better ways of getting things done. Involvement is so closely linked to engagement and alignment and discussions about issues and opportunities will relieve a lot of the frustration that most people report. If you had a situation where you simply had a better idea that would benefit you and others, wouldn’t you like the opportunity to share that idea and have it listened to by someone who could make a difference?

How would you define Facilitation?

For many people, based on the data, it would seem that a lot of people would liken it to Fear of Public Speaking, something dreadful and dangerous. Asking for ideas from people might open up that can of worms and cause all sorts of issues and problems. So, why would one possibly want to do that? (answer: engagement and motivation).

My own definition of Facilitation would stress that, in Spanish and other languages, facil means “easy” or “requiring little skill.” After all, it is the perception that asking for ideas generates worms and spiders and other creepy crawlies but that is not the reality. ASKING for ideas is really pretty simple.

To facilitate the process of such behavior (linking it to motivation, innovation, and involvement), we have packaged up The Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit.

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

For $25, you get instructions and explanations, handouts, powerpoints of the concept, and all the tools you need to involve and engage people in helping to step back from the wagon, identify the Square Wheels® and generate round wheels solutions.

Help your leaders to escape from North Korea and move to the sunshine of one of the fine beaches of the world. Get them out of the ditch of despair and up on the road of improvement. It isn’t hard; Just Ask!

a Dr. Seuss poem by Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

* By the way, BOSS spelled backwards is self-explanatory…

Best Practices – Performance Shortcuts that need sharing

My thinking for the past 30 years has been about people and performance, about innovation and peer support for change and all that stuff.

In LinkedIn this afternoon, Ingrid Kelada shared an image from Arvin Jayanake that caught my eye since it illustrated so much about how things really work in so many organizations. (I do not know the source for this, even after a search, so please advise if you know the ownership.)

shortcut

If you have spent any time on a college campus, you have seen this reality.

The best way to build drainage for a new road is to build the road and then watch how it floods… THEN, build the drainage. A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world, especially when you are trying to generate optimal performance and “control behavior.” Do what works best; design from that perspective.

It is the same thing in organizations. The best way to operate is the best way to operate!

In reality, lots of organizations REALLY operate like the illustration above, with the exemplary performers using the shortcuts and doing things differently (to generate the exemplary results) and the average performers using the walkways like they were trained. We see these Best Practice paths everywhere, but a typical HR or management response to this situation is to build the wall across the shortcut!

My approach says that we simply need to step back from the wagon and look at how things are really working, finding those square pathways that can be improved in some way so that more people can operate more effectively. It looks like this when the top performers can get the attention of leadership:

Square Wheels and teambuilding games by Scott Simmerman

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There! Those best practice ideas already exist and we simply need to take the time to share some of them with the people who are pushing the wagons forward.

POEMS For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

We just released our new toolkit for improving organizational communications. Check it out:

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

 

 

A “Stupidly Simple” Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit

I just uploaded a new and improved engagement toolkit, wrapped around using my Square Wheels image. I include both the LEGO as well as the line-art versions of the images.

For $25, you get the powerpoints, handouts, instructions and ideas on how to share the image and generate involvement around ideas for improving the workplace. You also get me, since I continue to support the work personally, so you can email me questions or thoughts about how to optimize results using these tools.

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

You get worksheets and handouts and posters, the tools to both get things started and keep the wheels turning:

the worksheet handout for engagement of ideas

handout for supporting engagement and involvement

These are great tools and simple to use.  They easily link to innovation and creativity initiatives and also work for improving teamwork and communications. Since leadership is also about teambuilding and alignment, you will find this approach to be simply effective,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Stupidly Simple Thoughts on Employee Engagement

It took me about two seconds to come up with the title for this post, after looking at a number of different posts around ideas for engagement and ideas for improving performance this morning. I put up a couple of things on my scoop.it page on Employee Engagement and I was completing a chapter for a book, so some thinking around the issue was fresh.

the scoop.it page of scott simmermanThere is a lot of writing around what to do and how well things are working. Generally, the information provided by Gallup and Sirota and others suggests that little is actually improving. It begs the question, why not.

My belief is simple: there is not enough effective communications going on between the supervisor and the workers. There is not enough alignment to visions and goals and expectations, not enough or sufficient performance feedback (and I do not mean coaching here — see this analysis) and there is not nearly enough listening or asking questions by the management team.

So, why not?

• Is it task interference? Do the supervisors simply have too little time to devote to listening about issues and opportunities?

• Is it an actual lack of employee interest in what is going on in their workplace?

• Is it the reality of measurement, and that workers just do not have the scheduled time available to them to be in meetings with their boss?

• Is it somehow related to the overall training and development goals of the organization, in that these meetings should be produced and directed by the people in Training and Development or HR and that developmental and coaching discussions with people are not the role of the managers?

• Is it a disconnect between the manager and the supervisor when it comes to themes of productivity and employee retention and performance levels?

I am not really sure, but I do know that the opportunity for improvement absolutely exists and that it IS relatively easy to involve and engage people and get their ideas about workplace improvement and job performance skills and techniques. And I know that we can improve real teamwork and collaboration with this same approach.

Let me illustrate with two simple thoughts, expressed through my Square Wheels® theme and thinking:

Square Wheels illustration about playing with ideas

and then there is this reality:

square wheels illustration on supporting change

Is this really so HARD to accomplish? Aren’t you pretty sure that people have ideas for improvement and will share those ideas in a meeting and discussion? Sure, if the workplace has a poor history of engagement and innovation (“bad managers” abound, the research suggests), you should expect some initial venting of frustration. But most people DO have positive intentions and DO want to have a positive impact on things. They get intrinsic motivation from doing things successfully.

Implementing Round Wheels in a Square Wheels World is not all that difficult to accomplish.

If you don’t believe it, go ask somebody!

And if you are looking for a simple tool to better involve and engage, we just uploaded the new “Stupidly Simple Square Wheels Toolkit” on our website – $25 with instructions and tools.

an engagement toolkit by square wheels guy Scott Simmerman

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group